My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give. He believed in me. ~ Jim Valvano
This coming Sunday is Father’s Day.
It’s the day we remember our dads.
For some, Father’s Day is bittersweet because of their child’s substance use.
Today, I’m featuring some great dads who have taken the devastation they experienced with their child’s addiction and are using it for good. They have made it their mission to spread awareness about the dangers of drug use. They are giving back to make life a better place for those coming after.
There is so much work to be done and these dads are helping to pave the way.
Here are 11 amazing fathers who have stepped up to take on addiction.
As a dad who believed he could fix anything, I felt more like a failure every time my son fell deeper into his addiction. It nearly destroyed me. Fortunately, in the midst of my brokenness, I realized I wasn’t doing anyone, including me, any good.
Hopefully, there will be a day when your child finds their way back; so you can celebrate their success and be there for them. However, if you allow their addiction to destroy you, there will be nothing left for them to hang on to when they need you the most.
The best gift you can give, besides your unconditional love, is to be strong for them when they are present, and stronger for yourself when they are not!
David Cooke is the founder of 100 Pedals, Recovery for Parents of Addicts, which is a non-profit resource for moms and dads and other family members.
“First save the life. Where there is life, there is hope.”
My son, Greg, relapsed after seventeen months of sobriety. In his new-found sobriety, he was doing everything right in his life. Greg was in regular contact with my wife, Gail, and me. He was working. Greg was getting in shape for a ‘mud ruckus’ for MS. He was doing community service. One night he ran into some of his old running mates. The strength of the disease raised its ugly head and his relapse cost him his life.
In the aftermath of Greg’s death, the investigating detective said to me, “If we had a 911 Good Samaritan Law or a Narcan Law, your son might very well be alive today.” After the shock of his unnecessary death, I made a vow to Greg that I would somehow save a life in his name. The words of the detective were like that song that gets stuck in your brain, words I live with every day.
And sometimes you get lucky. I had some conversations with David Sheff. I worked as a parent advocate with Gary Mendell. I was partnered with two wonderful people, Jeanne & Don Keister, who founded atTAcK addiction, a truly grass roots advocacy group in Delaware. I am very proud to say that by working with all of these selfless advocates, we have instituted 911 Good Samaritan laws and Naloxone laws in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
My vow to my son, Greg, has been honored. A life saved in his name. And now I’ve gotten greedy. More lives saved. We continue to battle the public health crisis of the 21st century, over 550,000 lives unnecessarily lost.
On Father’s Day, it will be a day of “Saudade” – the joy of spending it with my son, Dave, and the sadness and emptiness because Greg is not with us.
Dave Humes is a board member of atTAcK addiction, a truly grass roots advocacy group in Delaware. Upon the death of his son, Greg, he closed his business in order to make a difference in the lives of those struggling with addiction and their loved ones.
Research says that most likely your child is going to be OK. In the middle of it, you don’t believe it, but it’s true. Of course, there are no guarantees, this disease is life threatening, so we have to take it seriously. Most young people who become addicted will be OK. That is the first thing to know.
The second thing to know is that it is so stressful that it can cause lives to crumble. Parents get divorced, and families explode, so we need to get help by going to therapy or going to Al-Anon meetings or whatever support is helpful. The hopeful part is that when you do have that help, you will feel better. It still doesn’t make this easy. Nothing makes this easy, but you can help yourself by making better decisions. You can reduce your suffering considerably.
There is also hope that as this field progresses, we are going to learn more about why people use and how to stop them from using the first place, why drug use escalates and how we can stop it before it gets to be a serious addiction. And when it does escalate, to better understand what addiction is and how we can better treat it.
David Sheff is a journalist and New York Times best-selling author. His books on addiction include Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction and Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy.
Stay calm. This is something that will likely take some practice for most people (myself included). No matter how much anger you feel toward your loved one and their substance abuse problem, losing your cool and yelling at them will not make anything better.
In fact, it’s likely to make things worse. Believe me; I was anything but calm early on in my son’s addiction. I have since learned that cooler heads definitely prevail.
Work on your own recovery. So many parents and loved ones of people with addictions don’t realize that their own recovery is just as important as the addict’s. In fact, it might be more important. If you are a physical/emotional wreck, you will be unable to help your loved one in any positive way. Instead of one healthy person being available to help one sick person, there ends up being two sick people, neither of whom can help the other.
To paraphrase David Sheff, don’t become addicted to your loved one’s addiction. And know this: You. Can. Get. Through. It.
If I can give you one piece of advice, show empathy towards your loved one. They have a disease no different than any other physical disease like cancer or diabetes.
Because of stigma, doctors aren’t treating it. Researchers aren’t getting enough money for research. People who are addicted will not seek treatment.
Most of the time it is because they are afraid of family, friends, and coworkers finding out about it. If you had asked me how many fathers in my small town had a son who was addicted, I would’ve raised my hand and said, “I’m one of the few.”
But I’ve learned that there are 25 million Americans today that are actively addicted. That’s one-quarter of American families.” Our teens, our youth, and all our loved ones are dying in communities all across America, not just inner cities.
This is a huge epidemic around this country (Business Insider).
Gary Mendell is the founder, Chairman, and CEO of Shatterproof. After losing his son Brian to addiction in 2011, Gary founded Shatterproof to spare other families the tragedy he has suffered.
My best advice is to learn how to get in touch with their own intuition. The answers are inside if we create a process for ourselves to be introspective. Let’s examine how we view our lives and start the education process very early on. This is an intergenerational, family legacy, multi-factorial problem, including a genetic predisposition. It requires a holistic, integrated approach.
Education, education, education.
Open up and start the conversation. Let’s get addiction out of the closet and turn over every stone we possibly can because there are different strokes for different folks.
I love the concept of rehab, but now let’s get prehab and let’s get posthab. Let’s make it a part of our culture early on in our educational system so that we can prevent a lot of this very expensive treatment. We can find a way to offer continued–aftercare–much like diabetes or heart disease. Ultimately, that will abate a lot of very expensive relapse episodes and recidivism in our prison systems.
It can be more robust; it can be spread out more in the culture. We like to say, “Let’s have the addiction treatment community be the entire community from the beat cop, to the teacher, to my brother.” Everybody can get up to speed on this because addiction touches all of us, one way or another.
Herby Bell, D.C., D.A.C.A.C.D(c) has been a practicing chiropractor for over 30 years. He is currently in private practice at Recovery Health Care in Redwood City, CA where he specializes in individuals with addictions. Herby also lectures at The Sequoia Center, a drug and alcohol treatment center in Redwood City and he produced a podcast entitled, Sober Conversations (iTunes) exploring sober and wellness lifestyles.
When I lost my son, Austin, to addiction, I had no idea this tragedy was happening all over America – that one in three households in America is impacted, and that a life is lost to addiction every 4 minutes. That is the equivalent of a jumbo jet falling from the sky every day, with no survivors.
“With alcohol and other drug-related deaths taking more than 350 Americans from us each and every day, and 20.8 million people currently struggling with substance use disorders, virtually every family in America is affected – this is the moment to share what we know and what we can do about it.”
One of the many ways Facing Addiction is helping is by creating the Addiction Resource Hub, the most comprehensive collection of addiction-related resources ever assembled to help people searching for information about prevention, intervention, treatment or recovery. You can find it at www.facingaddiction.org.
We know there are solutions to the addiction crisis, and it’s time for America to start facing addiction and exercise the political and social will to act on those solutions.
Jim Hood is the Co-Founder and CEO of Facing Addiction, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ending the addiction crisis in America.
The disease of addiction is very powerful…and it is particularly powerful when it begins in adolescence. Barely six months after initiating treatment, our son David died in a drug-related drowning at a friend’s home in Geist.
Since his death, my wife and I have learned many things about addiction…primarily that it is a powerful disease that can be deadly…especially when it starts in adolescence.
And that even when you do the right things and get the help you need…bad things still happen. Despite what happened to our son, we are convinced that treatment for addiction works and that recovery is possible for everyone.
Yet shame and stigma continue to have a stranglehold on those who suffer from addiction, and it is important now more than ever that we treat addiction like other chronic medical diseases like diabetes and cancer.
After the shattering loss of his youngest son, Kim has gone on to start The 24 Group, and the 24 Group Facebook Page to help spread the word about the dangers of substance abuse. He is a Parent Coach for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Kim has written a heartfelt book about the loss of his son, entitled, Odyssey. He has a video about the family’s story entitled, Just Your Normal High School Boy. Kim has shared his family’s story on national TV.
Sometimes I feel uncomfortable sharing upbeat stories when I know that many loving parents have tried everything, yet still lost their child. My heart breaks for these families. No one has all the answers. Sometimes, all we can do is the best we can, with the information that we have at the time, and hope and pray our child gets through their darkest moments.
Despite the horrific grip drugs have on many individuals, families, and communities, no one should have to fight this alone. When my boys were at their worst, I didn’t imagine we’d be where we are today. Finding and accessing resources and having good outcomes may feel impossible, but it’s not.
I know what it’s like to be at your wit’s end; when it is impossible to imagine that things could get better. Yet, my family kept reaching for help and never gave up. It wasn’t easy and certainly, it has not been a single straight line from addiction to recovery, but over time we went from hell to happiness. I’m optimistic you can get there, too. Let’s do this together.
Paul Kusiak is a father of two sons in recovery and one of the most dedicated Parent Coaches at Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
“What have I learned?” I think this is the most important question a parent of a teen with an addiction can ask him or herself. This self-reflective question focuses on you, the parent, and not the child with the drug problem.
In the midst of crisis and drama, it is difficult to figure out what to do to support a loved one with an addiction. A parent cannot deal successfully with the chaos this disease brings if he or she is filled with fear and anger.
True education occurs when we can sit quietly and reflect upon the events. We can look critically at our own role as a loving and supportive parent. Without quiet contemplation and analysis of your own actions, a parent can fall into the same traps and reactions. After a long period of doing the same thing over and over again, you may begin questioning, “Who is the crazy one in this picture?”
Ron is the Director of Human Resources for a manufacturing company. He lives in Kansas and is the parent of a son in his early twenties. In January of 2009, Ron began writing an award-winning blog, An Addict in Our Son’s Bedroom which is about living with and dealing with an addicted son. Ron reaches out to high schools and tells his family’s story. He is a Parent Ambassador for The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.
As a parent, you need to be up on your kids’ technology, including cell phones, and computers. We need to know what they are doing at all times.
As a parent, you are responsible for your kids, never forget that. Make sure they know they have zero privacy.
Sometimes, you need to love a child from a distance so they alone must own their addiction. If they have a heartbeat, there is hope. We need to look not only at the addiction but also examine the cause of their pain. Be sure to address the underlying issues along with the substance abuse.
Parents also need to get help for themselves. See a therapist, and seek out Alanon, Families Anonymous, and so on. Being in recovery is a good thing. In this faced-paced life with all its pressures, kids are looking for an escape. One bad decision can lead to a road of destruction or death.
Always do your research prior to making a decision on where to get help. Do not trust a Google search. Ultimately it is up to the person with the addiction to get sober, and parents must never enable. If you baby an addict, you will bury an addict. I know this all too well from going through it with my own son.
Tim Ryan is a Motivational Speaker, Executive Director of www.amirf.org, National Director for the Recoveryteam.org, father of five and over 4.5 years sober. He is also the published author of From Dope To Hope available on Amazon.